My First Semester As A College Athlete

My First Semester As A College Athlete

Nothing worth having comes easy.
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When I signed my contract, I was ecstatic. When I packed up and moved to school, I was nervous and hesitant. When the training got tough and I was exhausted, I was unsure. But now that my first season is over, I could not be more thankful and sure of my choice to attend San Diego State University and compete on the women's rowing team. The story to getting here is long, but I knew it was important that I tell it.

Moving to school is a challenge for anyone, and in different ways. Moving to college was tough for me because on top of the stress of becoming a college student, I was becoming a college athlete. I had spent the summer training on my own, working every day to increase my endurance, fitness and stamina in order to impress my coaches during our preliminary assessments. I was entering an environment where there was a new, greater level of competition than what I was used to, all while doing so without my high school teammates. I had to find some kind of comfort in the new people I was meeting to get through the start of our season and the 6000-meter rowing machine test that would determine how we stood on the team as the season got started. That test was crucial, and it had been the focus of my summer. Training, training, and more training to meet the numbers and try to do better than that. I needed to meet the time standard for this test.

And I didn't. On the day of the test, I came up short. I rowed as hard as I could, and I could tell you all of the reasons I think I didn't make the time standard that day, but if this semester has taught me anything, it's the stop making excuses. I didn't make it, I had failed, and I had to keep working.

After that test day early on in the semester, I had to keep training. While those who met the standard got to row on beautiful Mission Bay, I spent every morning back on the rowing machine. Week after week, I'd attempt the 6000-meter test again. And for an entire month, I was stuck on campus training without water to row on.

During that month I was tested to a greater degree than I expected to be during my first semester. Being off the water made me question my decision to be here, and that is something I don't like to admit, but it's the truth. I wondered about what I was doing, why I couldn't measure up to the time standard. I was tired and during a time where a lot of students were experiencing the tough adjustment of being away from home, I was experiencing that and my fear of failure week after week, when I would retest. That fear shaped me in huge ways.

On the day that I passed the test, I was overcome with emotion. I had spent weeks in fear of failure, but at the same time, I realized I was afraid of my own strength. The challenge of the assessment that I faced during my first semester taught me that fearing the worst isn't going to get you anywhere, and it's better to remember that you're strong, capable, and strength will overcome that fear of defeat. I was finally able to row with my teammates and it was the greatest gift ever to get back on the water.

But that work didn't stop there. The rowing machine was still a subject of worry for me, and when it was incorporated into our weekly training, it caused me plenty of stress. The weeks got longer, as we entered 20-hour training weeks. While balancing sleep, studies, and any bit of a social life, we trained for 20 hours a week. Double-days are normal days for us, as are 5:30 am alarm clocks. The exhaustion we experienced became so great that it didn't really exist anymore- we were all so used to it that it was common place in our lives. The work got harder and the days seemed to get longer. None of what I was experiencing was easy. There were tough workouts, tough talks from my coach, and tough lessons to learn each day.

From September to November we were locked in the grind of train, sleep, eat (study?), repeat. And time flew by. As it did, I began to get into my rhythm and started learning a lot. I also realized I had a lot of people to thank. My trainer from home, Kristin, stuck by me through the toughest realizations, toughest moments, and worst points of the semester. She motivated me, helped me understand my potential, and inspired my goals. My mom was always there to listen and understand, even from far away. She got it, and she let me be frustrated. My family and friends who understood when I was busy or exhausted helped me keep training.

The girls I've met here have impacted me immensely. Older girls who I didn't think knew my name gave me pointers and showed that they cared. Our team captains instilled a work ethic in our team that inspires me personally and expected excellence each day. My primary coach taught me some of the greatest lessons about life from each day of hard work as a rower, and she is someone I look up to daily now.

Being a college athlete is much different than what I anticipated. A lot of the things I've experienced in this first semester are things I predicted. But a lot is different, unexpected, new, and challenging. My life revolves around my sport. My winter break ends early to train, our spring break doesn't exist, and summer is also dedicated to the next season or the next rowing machine test. A lot of people would view the journey of this first season as something awful and unpleasant. But that's where we differ as athletes. Some moments can be painful, many even. Some days can be awful. But when we see our hard work pay off in the rowing machine or the water, see our coach recognize our strides toward improvement, and see our fitness increase as we close off a great semester, we don't see the awful or the unpleasant- we see the journey to excellence. We see the grind and how empowering it is to be an athlete. And we see the journey itself as the reward.

This semester I've learned so much. Failure does not define your character, and should not define your work ethic- it must push you to keep going. Hard work is the greatest virtue of all. And as many athletes say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Always be the tough one in a sea of people. Never make excuses. And if all else fails, while working to make the people you love proud, make yourself proud too.

I'm thankful for the experience, the people and the team that has welcomed me with open arms. I'm excited to train hard over winter break to come back stronger. I can't wait for the spring season. My first semester as a college rower has been a roller coaster, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Nothing worth having comes easy.

Cover Image Credit: SDSU News Center

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.

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The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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